Communities upbeat in the fight against polio
Ending polio in Malawi
When 24-year-old Alinafe Mwale Phiri from Kachitsa Village in Kasungu heard about the third polio vaccination campaign, she could not wait for health workers to reach her village to have her 13-month-old son Blessings vaccinated.
“When I heard about the campaign on the radio, I told my husband, and we agreed that we get Blessings immunised against the deadly disease at the first opportunity. I couldn't forgive myself if we were to miss out,” she explained.
But the vaccines ran out on the first attempt before the health officials could reach her home.
“We had heard that the health officials were coming for vaccination, but later on, we learnt that the vaccines had finished before they could reach our village.”
She did not let this hindrance frustrate her. The following day she woke up very early.
She spotted a health surveillance assistant (HSA) from afar. The HSA's bicycle and sky blue uniform gave her away from a distance.
“I am so happy that I have finally secured the necessary protection for my son. This is the least I can do as a parent,” she said, still breathing heavily from the run she and her three friends had made to the vaccination spot.
The HSA Rosemary Phiri, testifies that communities are eagerly warming up to the polio campaign.
She explains: “Normally, we struggle to get these mothers to immunise their children. But this time around, it’s different. The reception is encouraging considering that this is the first day of the third round of the vaccination campaign.”
Rosemary made three trips collecting vaccines from Kasalika Health Centre to the communities in her catchment area with the aim to reach every child under five-years-old with the polio vaccine.
The polio vaccination campaigns in Malawi are being implemented with financial assistance from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary Club, and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance.
This comes after Malawi declared a wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) outbreak in February after detecting the country’s first case in 30 years.
UNICEF Health Specialist Dr. Ghanshyam Sethy says, “The multiple vaccination rounds aim to interrupt the circulation of the poliovirus by immunizing every child under five years with oral polio vaccine regardless of previous immunization status.”
Over 3.5 million children were eventually reached during the third nationwide campaign, ensuring continuous protection against the deadly disease.